Mme. Roger Lacourière (acquired by descent from the above)
Bouquinerie de l’Institut, Paris (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above on March 7, 2003
In addition to the complete set of La Suite Vollard, this lot includes the following work:
Portrait de Vollard, I (Bloch 1332; Baer 620)
Etching and aquatint, 1937, one of a few impressions printed by Frélaut in 1960.
plate: 34.5 by 24.6cm., 13 1/2 by 9 3/4 in.
sheet: 42 by 32.5cm., 16 1/2 by 12 3/4 in.
The set of 100 prints known as the Suite Vollard is widely acknowledged as one of the superlative achievements in Pablo Picasso’s graphic oeuvre. Created in bouts of fervent activity between 1930 and 1937, the set was named, retrospectively, after the man behind its publication, the great Parisian print publisher and art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866 – 1939). Picasso shared a close relationship with Vollard since the early years of his artistic career.
The series follows a metamorphic and by no means linear progression. As Stephen Coppel explains: "Through its inter-related imagery, Picasso weaves the rival claims of making art and making love. He offers no unfolding narrative but allows the viewer to make connections freely between one plate and another" (S. Coppel, op. cit., 2012, p. 11). Despite the mutable nature of its subject matter, the series explores and revisits several themes and ideas that were central to Picasso’s creative thinking during this period. These include: the Sculptor in his Studio, the Battle of Love, the Minotaur and the Blind Minotaur. Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s lover at the time, remained a central motif for the artist throughout his exploration of these various themes.
Only two years after Picasso’s completion of the final plates in the series, Vollard was tragically killed in a car accident. Following his death, the majority of the edition of the Suite Vollard was purchased from the publisher’s estate by the Parisian dealer, Henri M. Petiet. After World War II, a very small number of complete sets were assembled, while the vast majority of the prints were dispersed and sold separately over the decades to follow. Complete Vollard Suites are thus now incredibly scarce, while complete sets of the deluxe edition with wide margins, like the present example, are rarer still.
The set offered here comes originally from the collection of the Parisian master printer and printer of the Vollard Suite, Roger Lacourière. Picasso began working with Lacourière in 1934, a moment now understood to be of major consequence in the artist’s printmaking career. As Deborah Wye states: "Picasso’s relationship with Lacourière was different from anything he had experienced with previous printers. Through the nature of his personality, Lacourière became an active collaborator, giving Picasso a new understanding of the intaglio processes… The result was a new level of ambition in Picasso’s prints, as he began to grasp the full potential of the medium" (D. Wye, A Picasso Portfolio: Prints from the Museum of Modern Art, 2010, p. 47). In line with this description, the Vollard Suite has now long been held up as an unsurpassed representation of Picasso’s burgeoning ambition in the field of printmaking and his dexterity in increasingly complex intaglio techniques. Throughout the series Picasso experiments with, and demonstrates a masterful manipulation of, the techniques of line etching, drypoint, grattoir, engraving and aquatint.
It is thus meaningful that the original owner of this set is now championed as a figure who stimulated many of the technical achievements that made the set a reality. Also, and even more crucially, one must assume that in his position as the printer of the Vollard Suite, Roger Lacourière would have selected for himself a set made up of the edition’s finest impressions.
The present set attests to such an auspicious opportunity. Subjects such as Quatre femmes nues et tête sculptée (B. 219) and Taureau ailé contemplé par quatre enfants (B. 229) exhibit a remarkable contrast and clarity, while the delicate plate tone and rich burr apparent in drypoints such as Le cirque (B. 205) indicate an exceptional quality of impression. Perhaps most importantly, one also finds here superb impressions of Minotaure caressant une dormeuse (B. 201), Minotaure aveugle guidé par une fillette dans la nuit (B. 225) and Faune dévoilant une femme (B. 230); prints that constitute the most momentous and desirable subjects within the triumph of printmaking that is the Vollard Suite.
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